My crew of misfits is breaking and entering the headquarters of future London’s resident evil megacorp, and I’m all out of action points. I blew them searching the drawers of this office and picking the lock of a car in the parking garage, so now I’ve got none left to hack the workstation and move our heist forward. Hesitantly, I hit the button to end my turn, raising the security team’s alert status and running the risk of a random encounter with guards. Thankfully, no corporate security gets sent my way this turn, and I’m free to hack away with a fresh pool of action points.
Sunday Gold (opens in new tab) is a stylish game, with a jazzy soundtrack, expressive, impressionistic character design, and a distinctive “conversation pit future” aesthetic to its late 21st century London. It also deftly mixes two classic gaming genres, turn-based RPG and point-and-click adventure, in a way I found absolutely bracing in my playthrough of its first act.
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Sunday Gold is set in a dystopian 2070s London where the styles of the late ’60s and early ’70s have come back in vogue and everyone is obsessed with zombie dog racing. The local megacorp, Hogan Industries, is a big name in reanimating pooches with cybernetics and sending them to the track, and our crew of career criminal Frank, animal rights activist Sally, and hackerman Gavin have come together to pull a heist on the operation.
On first seeing Sunday Gold’s art style and neo noir setting, I wondered if it might be following in Disco Elysium’s footsteps: a literary, political RPG in an urban setting. It turns out the two are very different in tone, and also take the concept of an RPG/adventure hybrid in completely different directions.
Disco Elysium stripped the combat from Planescape: Torment’s already adventure-heavy gameplay, leaving an investigative, cerebral experience where your character build impacts what tools you have to solve quests. By contrast, Sunday Gold has combined hardcore, classic JRPG-style combat with an old school, Sierra or LucasArts sort of point-and-click exploration and puzzle solving, with the two united by a highly limited resource pool that ups the stakes of the combat and forces a certain discipline in exploration.
Each of the three characters has seven AP for both exploration and combat, with commands like searching an area or picking a lock requiring three or four points on average. When you deplete your crew’s overall AP, you have to manually end a turn to refresh the pool, raising your enemies’ “Alert Status” (general strength and numbers) and triggering a chance of a random encounter.
In combat, characters take turns like in a classic JRPG, but your AP doesn’t automatically refresh on each turn—you have to guard and refill the pool every three actions or so. Your AP at the end of combat persists into the next round of exploration, and the crew’s HP is only fully restored at the end of a chapter. Healing with abilities or items between fights costs more of your dwindling AP pool.
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Frank, Gavin, and Sally each possess a composure meter that ticks up or down based on the success of the mission. When the meter gets low enough, characters have a time limit for command selection during combat turns, and their respective obstacle-clearing minigames receive new complications. Gavin’s Fallout 3-style hacking minigame, for example, has characters changing shape or color to interfere with your password guessing.
I find the result extremely compelling, with the resource-intensive exploration adding an old school sense of scarcity and consequence to the combat, and the threat of costly brawls forcing you to really consider how you explore, problematizing the old point-and-click adventure standby of “rub everything together and see what works” when you only have so many Action Points and healing items to deal with the resulting combat.
A particularly fun moment is having to search a dead body for a security keycard—there are more places to search than useful items on the body, and each pocket you pat down deals bonus stress damage to the character doing it, in addition to wasting valuable AP. It’s a nice way to troll your typical grave robbing kleptomaniac RPG player such as myself.
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I ran into a few minor snags in my play time, but I feel they’re worth noting. Sunday Gold definitely has that classic point-and-click adventure issue where a puzzle isn’t necessarily challenging, there’s just some disconnect with what form the solution takes in-game. You’ve got the battery and the repair kit, but there’s no option to right-click and use the repair kit on the battery: what’s the solution?
Turns out you have to go to the workbench in the other room and interact with that while the repair kit and battery are in your inventory to move forward. It’s luck of the draw in how your synapses fire and in what order you discover these different components that determines whether a sequence like this poses no difficulty at all, or sends you clicking around for 10 minutes trying to figure out what to do next.
I also wasn’t blown away by the dialogue so far. The setting is killer, the pulpy crime caper plot has got my attention, the characters are visually striking and have compelling backgrounds, it’s just their conversations are a little too Disney/Marvel “they can fly now?” for my money. That may improve as the game goes on, and one’s capacity for bants is definitely a matter of taste—for me it’s a net neutral at the moment.
I come away from the preview eagerly anticipating Sunday Gold’s release. I think developers Bkom have landed on something really novel and fun with Sunday Gold’s injection of JRPG combat and resource management into an adventure game, and its depiction of a groovy future London with bad vibes aplenty has really stuck with me.
You can wishlist Sunday Gold on Steam (opens in new tab), and it’s planned to launch some time this year.